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A mixed blessing ... 3 ½ stars
on July 26, 2009
Like many other readers, I was very surprised by the ending of Slaughter's Grant County novel a couple of books back in which a series lead character - Jeffrey Tolliver - was killed, leaving his counterpart Sara Linton a grieving widow.
Well, Sara's back in this novel, along with Slaughter's other parallel series duo from the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) Will Trent and Faith Mitchell.
I have very mixed feelings about this book, to be honest. I think Slaughter's a tremendously talented writer; I also think it was a very gutsy move in the earlier book to kill off Jeffrey. She probably knew this wouldn't sit well with many of her fans, and judging by that book's review on this site, she was right. But she did it anyway.
I think that's also a very artistic choice, because now we'll never know if a lead character's safe in any book she writes going forward, and that certainly adds dramatic tension to the story. A lead character can actually die... think about that! You KNOW when you read a book featuring Mitch Rapp, Jack Reacher, Lucas Davenport, Harry Bosch, or any of the others that no matter HOW bad the situation is in which they find themselves, they're ultimately going to emerge from the other end alive.
You can't say that any longer about a Slaughter character, can you?
Also on the upside, the plot of this book was very clever and cunningly executed; I was surprised at the denouement. The clues were there, but even though I'm a devotee of this genre, I hadn't figured it out.
However, I do have some nits to pick.
First of all, to set the background, Slaughter writes very strong female characters. Some are appealing, some not. That's fine; no problem. In the Tolliver/Linton series, Sara's appealing, Lena's a pain in the tukus (though I happen to like her). In the GBI series, Faith, Angie and GBI honcho Amanda are all also tough as nails. Actually, I think this gives one some insight into Slaughter's own personality, interestingly enough. Faith and Amanda are both very appealing in their own ways, while Angie's a demon in a dress.
In the Tolliver/Linton series, Jeffrey kept Lena on a strong and short leash, which made for a very interesting dynamic. But in the GBI series, Will Trent is completely p-whipped by Angie. Now, that works for a while, but here's where the problem arises for me.
Trent is already a case of "damaged goods", being dyslexic and emotionally stunted due to his background as an orphanage veteran. To be honest, I have a hard time believing he's as disabled as he is and yet still managed to go through training to become a peace officer - with firearms privileges at that - or even have passed a driving license test. If you can't read, how do you pass the written test for a license?
But even putting that aside, we've now seen him in three books, and his obsession with Evil Angie is starting to become tiresome, to be honest... particularly as it was used in a pretty manipulative and unbelievable fashion to delay the revelation of a vital clue in this story. She's a cop, and would endanger a potential victim just to play mind games with him? And even after that, he wouldn't boot her butt out the door for good?
This is the same problem I have with the "Beauty Killer" trilogy by Chelsea Cain. Enough with the total wimpdom of the character, with no progress over a series of books covering an appreciable time frame. In order to stay interesting - and believable - characters have to change over time just like real people do. None of us are frozen in amber.
I, for one, am totally done with Trent's being mesmerized by Angie. Time for him to develop as a character, move forward in some way, either admitting his total vulnerability to her and just giving up, or tossing her completely out of his life.
But something has to change. His unbelievable dyslexia coupled with his whippedness just makes him too static and boring a character to continue unchanged.